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Missouri Bluffs Subdivision

Two deer graze alongside the Katy Trail near the planned site for the Missouri Bluffs subdivision on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

A proposal to build up to 221 residences on the Missouri Bluffs near the Katy Trail will need approval from five of the seven St. Charles County Council members after the plans were rejected by the St. Charles County Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday.

The meeting was the latest review by county officials of a project by developer Greg Whittaker of NT Builders LLC to build 161 single-family homes and up to 60 multifamily units on the edge of the Missouri Bluffs Golf Club near Highway 40 (Interstate 64) on public land he plans to buy from the University of Missouri.

The project has drawn fierce opposition from environmentalists and residents concerned the project would permanently mar the landscape and detract from the experience of people using the Katy Trail.

The commission, which makes recommendations to the council, voted 5-2 to reject a layout and lot design that requested a number of exceptions to county ordinances. Among other considerations, the design sought narrower roads and development on steeper slopes than usually allowed.

The changes were among a number of revisions to the project, including setting aside 62 acres between the housing tract and the Katy Trail for conservation, since it was first announced in 2017. Developers said the changes addressed environmental concerns and would minimize disturbance to the land.

“The idea behind this is to make it as rural as we can make it,” said Brad Goss, attorney for NT Builders, while presenting the plans to the commission.

Rhonda Hanne, one of more than 16 people who spoke against the project, argued that no amount of revisions would be enough to offset its environmental impact.

“While I commend the hard work that’s been done about this ... I don’t care about it, because one house on that property is too many,” she said.

The St. Charles County Council will review the plans Aug 12. Approval from five of seven members will be needed for the project to pass.

That was the case in June 2018, when the council approved a concept plan for the project. The Planning and Zoning Commission had voted overwhelmingly two months earlier to recommend against the housing plan. The County Council overrode that decision with a 5-1 vote that was met with a chorus of boos from the crowd of several dozen in the council chambers.

The commission’s vote Wednesday was applauded by environmentalists and residents opposed to the project who packed the meeting. John Hickey, director of the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club, said they would continue to fight the project and pack the council meeting in August.

“It confirms what we’ve always said,” Hickey said. “This is the wrong place for this type of development.”

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Reporter covering breaking news and crime by night. Born in Algeria but grew up in St. Louis. Previously reported for The Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi and at the Wichita Eagle in Wichita, Kansas.